Omnichannel Intelligence: an analyst’s view

How can organisations utilise digital and omnichannel to grow a business and reach new customers, or existing customers in new ways?

Or to put it another way, how can companies use the power of digital and mobile to deliver a seamless customer experience? Clearly, the customer has to be at the front of our minds.

The recent excellent GDS Group Next Generation Retail Summit, hosted at the Omni Interlocken Hotel, Denver on May 2-4, 2016, generated sometimes heated, yet highly constructive debates amongst its senior and engaged delegation. While a large number of challenges and approaches to omnichannel were discussed, certain questions, solution approaches and challenges repeatedly emerged as key topics – amongst them, using advanced analytics to strengthen customer relationships and drive sales.

It was clear from the workshops, keynotes, and discussions that there are a variety of approaches – including many powerful analytical and technology solutions – to help companies address these issues. One between the lines observation, however, is that many companies face significant difficulties in establishing and integrating them as differentiating capabilities inside their organizations. How a business can not only build or acquire relevant powerful analytics and technology – but integrate them into a seamless and powerful customer proposition that creates lasting differentiation vs. competitors – will be a critical success factor in the marketplace.

The difficulty in getting good data on which to base analytical approaches was discussed at length. “Much of the problem is in the cleansing, not the analysis”. There was a robust discussion about the role of IT in supporting the analytical capabilities required to deliver an omnichannel offer. Breaking free of the classic business vs. IT silo trap requires a partnership and alignment between business owners and IT – a willingness to experiment together and learn. It was noted that vendors often oversell the capabilities or ease-of-use of a solution, and business users often under-resource in both personnel and financial needs to establish and sustain the capability.

The difference between optimization analytics around particular offers or campaigns – or tweaks to create personalization – and business strategy analytics, which can help spot major trends or disruptions that could impact the fundamental customer strategy for a business were discussed. Of course, building this capability requires both the right analytical talent and connections from ongoing analytics to proper strategic planning processes.

The experiences customers have not only across retail companies, but in all other aspects of their digital lives, serves to shape their expectations of retailers. The explosion of online and pure-play business models, the need for 24/7 business hours for customer service and social media, and how to learn from independent stores in how to cultivate a personal touch are essential for success.

Don’t differentiate shoppers based on channel (store vs. online/ digital), make sure that the shopping experience is seamless and integrated across channels, and ensure that loyalty programs leverage digital and deliver real value. There needs to be consistency from one interaction to the next, no matter what channel, from the customer’s perspective – and this requires the organization to think differently about how to align itself against delivering this seamless experience.

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This article is based on the findings of KPMG, LLP.